WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration focused from its earliest days on ramping up domestic oil and gas production, charged House Democrats, but at the same time allowed the industry a "dangerous culture of permissiveness" that culminated in the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico.
The House panel interrogated former Interior Department secretaries who implemented the 2001 recommendations of former Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, which in turn resulted in an executive order requiring federal agencies to expedite offshore drilling and other domestic energy production.
Dirk Kempthorne, his predecessor Gale Norton, as well as the current Interior Secretary in the Obama administration, Ken Salazar, were called before the House Energy and Commerce committee Tuesday about their oversight of the regulatory agency that oversaw offshore drilling, the Minerals Management Service.
The committee, which has been investigating the cause of the explosion, also is examining potential regulatory lapses that could have increased the likelihood of the massive blowout that killed 11 people, and that until this week, was pumping an estimated 60,000 barrels of oil a day into the Gulf of Mexico.
"There has been a pervasive failure by the regulators to take the actions necessary to protect safety and the environment," said Rep Bart Stupak, D-Mich., the chairman of the committee's oversight and investigative subcommittee. "These failures to regulate happened at the same time as federal officials offered oil and gas companies new incentives to drill in deeper and riskier waters in the Gulf of Mexico." …